It is hard to believe that the referendum on our EU membership took place just one month ago today. But the passage of time should not mean that we forget what the Vote Leave campaigners promised during the referendum campaign.
It matters because Theresa May’s government is dancing to a Vote Leave tune. The three Brexiteers – Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – are in charge of negotiating our exit from the EU. Vitally important departments like Transport, Environment and International Development are under the control of Leave campaigners.
So the promises Vote Leave ministers made during the referendum aren’t old news. They are policy commitments that made up the case for the most significant political event of my lifetime. And the sad fact is that in the past month, senior Leave campaigners have already started breaking their promises with stunning speed and shamelessness.
Take their signature pledge – that leaving the EU would free up £350 million more every week to spend on the NHS. Boris Johnson toured the country in a bright red bus emblazoned with that commitment. Nigel Farage has described this promise as a “mistake”. Vote Leave wiped the pledge from their website. And Chris Grayling, the new Transport Secretary, called it an “aspiration”, rather than a promise. From Boris Johnson, who repeated the £350 million figure during the referendum, we have heard nothing.
It’s clear that Vote Leave knew that this statistic was, in the words of the head of the UK Statistics Authority, “misleading”. And now its leaders are trying to change history and pretend that it was not the key argument of their campaign.
Central to this month of broken promises has been the economy. Whenever Remain campaigners pointed out the possible economic downsides of leaving the EU, Leavers accused us of “scaremongering” and practising “Project Fear”. David Davis, the new Brexit Secretary, even said that “growth will go up not down” after Brexit.
All this adds up to lower investment, fewer jobs, and higher prices. The more honest Leave campaigners knew this would happen. But the people now governing our country cynically promised greater prosperity after a vote to leave. It is now clear that this was untrue.
Like all Britons, I wholeheartedly accept the result of the referendum, and I hope that our country can get the very best deal from the EU and move forward with confidence. Yet that doesn’t mean we should let Boris and his cronies off the hook for the promises they made. Indeed, it is crucial that we hold them to account – as Vote Leave Watch, the organisation I chair, is now doing.
In exposing the gaps between the rhetoric of the Vote Leave campaigns and the reality of what a Brexit means, we hope to bring those who voted Remain and those who voted Leave together to help forge a national consensus on a way forward for our country.
This article originally appeared in The i